By Kimberly Howe, Jairo Munive, and Katja Rosenstock
As the slogan “as local as possible, as international as necessary” reverberates through the humanitarian community, this study seeks to understand the nuances of localization processes in three countries in the Horn of Africa—Kenya, Somalia/Somaliland, and South Sudan. We begin by identifying four assumptions that dominate the discourse on localization of humanitarian aid, which state that local actors 1) are less principled in their response; 2) have less operational and organizational capacity; 3) provide a lower-quality response; and 4) have a lower cost than responses implemented by international organizations. We seek evidence to support or refute these assumptions, while also attempting to identify the factors that enable local actors in providing a high-quality, principled, and effective response, and the ones that hinder them in doing so.
At the heart of this inquiry are the voices—expressing their perceptions and experiences—of staff working for local non-governmental organizations (LNGOs) in these three countries. We purposively chose to focus on this population, because they are often sidelined from the international discourse on localization. In total, 52 qualitative interviews were conducted during the first quarter of 2019. More than half of the interviews focused on staff of LNGOs and local governmental authorities, and the remainder targeted staff of the United Nations (UN), international NGOs, and international networks. From these findings, we provide a set of recommendations that are rooted in the perceptions of local actors.
An overview of the factors identified by local actors that enable and hinder a timely, appropriate, high-quality, and principled response are presented below and elaborated on in the body of the report.